Organizations do not operate in a vacuum, their surrounding environment is their host community and every organization has corporate social responsibilities to such host communities. These support programmes carried out by small/large scale businesses go a long way to prevent crime, cause employment, clean-up, beautification, recycling, and restoration of the community’s environment etc. These support programs are strategic towards the development of these communities. Hence this paper explores strategies of community relations towards a rural development.
Community relations refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. The underlying principal of community relations is that when a company accepts its civic responsibility and takes an active interest in the well-being of its community, then it gains a number of long-term benefits in terms of community support, loyalty, and good will.
Organizations are recognized as good community citizens when they support programs that improve the quality of life in their community. Some other examples of programs might include scholarship programs, urban renewal projects, performing arts programs, social and educational programs, children’s activities, community organizations, and construction projects.
According to Norman R. Soderberg in his book Public Relations for the Entrepreneur and the Growing Business, small businesses can become involved in their communities in any number of ways. Some recommended routes toward increasing community involvement include: taking an active interest in community problems; sponsoring youth activities; participating in local government; joining business and service groups; purchasing materials and supplies from local companies; encouraging community education and culture; making offices or other facilities available to community organizations; supporting local charity drives; and taking part in civic activities.
Soderberg stresses that for a small business, community relations should involve more than just an annual contribution to the United Way. Instead, the small business owner should become personally involved in the effort, and should encourage employees to participate as well.
These support programmes carried out by small/large scale businesses go a long way to prevent crime, cause employment, clean-up, beautification, recycling, and restoration of the community’s environment hence there is a sustained rural development.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Studies conducted regarding the economic contribution to rural community through community relation that involves their participation in different forms of activities for their family and societal development. Such economic activities include Agriculture, Trade transaction, food processing, hairdressing and weaving, Sewing and Knitting, and handcraft and creative art. Women benefits compared to men are little regarding Education, Employment opportunities, personal income, Assets and land tenure. Community relation and their role in economic structures is an indicator of the modernization of the national economy and economic development, community relation strategies should be based on a more active participation of individuals, community and societies at large in economic activities.
STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
There are many problems that militate against community relations for a rural development such as problems of coordination, lack of trained or professional workers, flexibility of rural development agencies, lack of funds, lack of people’s participation etc which tend to impede rural development.
Mordi (1988) asserted that inconsistencies of agencies and other organisations in charge of rural development have complicated the administration of rural development in
Nigeria. Several ministries are accorded and assigned with responsibilities duplicated amongst other agencies which have become so fluid that the name and responsibility assigned may not be the same in the next few months and this demonstrates the trial and error syndrome in the Nigeria rural development administration.
Ijere (1987) stated that there is the neglect of community structural approach. A structural approach uses existing organisations as much as possible in dealing with problems and people. It calls on the resources of existing institutions and works through them. Where these are not available, it builds structure models such as leadership committees for the projects or communities involved but the usual pattern in Nigeria has been to impose as much imported schemes as possible whether they are related to the cultural and sociological life of the people or not. They appoint new local leaders where such leaders already exist not making use of youth organisations, age grade and women groups in the initiation and implementation of programmes.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this research include:
- To find out how community relations contribute to rural development.
- To identify stratagems for significant contribution of community relation to rural development.
- To find out the how community relations generate their income for rural development projects.
Different scholars have defined the concept of rural development to mean different things. Hence this paper shall draw from the wealth of their ideas.
Rural development could be seen as a development process embracing the efforts of individuals, self-help groups, non-governmental and governmental organizations, collective thinking, collective action and participation. Each of these groups identifying with different roles towards increasing the social and economic well being of the people and the advancement towards the nation’s growth and to make the efforts of these groups effective and acceptable, the people’s identified felt-needs must be priority projects (Dube, 1986).
Igbozurike (1977) defines rural development as a regional resources mobilization system in which the conceptual initiatives and responsibility rest with the occupants of the region concerned. The term is also seen as an educational process and activities in rural communities, which embody the principle of self-help. In developed countries, e.g. United Kingdom, a professional expert is employed by the local educational authority to assist and promote the activity. This idea is echoed by Bail (1974) who saw community development as the method by which people in villages are involved in helping to improve their own economic and social working conditions and thereby become effective working groups in programmes of their national development. In order words, it emanates from a mutual agreement among a group of people to mobilise their cooperative efforts to embark on programmes that would improve their socio-economic life.
Bail (1974) is of the view that rural development is an educational process, which seeks to create improved opportunities for local people to satisfy the human, economic, social and psychic needs. This view was supported by Brainwell and Baker (1975) when they said that rural development is an educational process. It is not better road, better bridge, portable water or effective sanitation, it is something of the spirit more than on the material.
Ugboh (2004) sees rural development as a process of people learning how to help themselves attain an improved standard of living by building better communities, taking one step at a time.
Anyichi (1995) sees rural development as the process of rural modernisation and the monetisation of the rural society leading to its transition from traditional isolation to integration with the national economy.
It involves, adopting one or more approaches in bringing about development in economic, health care and social welfare of members of a community (Osuem 1999).
The aims of rural development should be to increase the self sufficiency of the rural dwellers and raise their standards of living. It enables the people, through group action, become competent to control their living conditions. It is a process of not only increasing the level of per-capita income in the rural sector, but also the standard of living of the rural population (Fakoya, Apantaku and Oyesola 2001).
COMMUNITY RELATION STRATEGY FOR EFFECTIVE RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Community members are becoming more involved with the public policy process. An effective community relations program should include a robust outreach strategy. Surrounding communities must be educated on the merits of a project in order to garner public support. Those who neglect to do so will often encounter red tape, public opposition and project failure. These Strategies will work with you to craft a Strategic Community Relations Plan (SCRP) that will aid you in achieving your public policy goals.
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a tool used to raise and save money to influence political races and ballot measures by directly contributing to campaigns or administering independent expenditure races on behalf of a candidate or issue.
PACs do not buy votes or guarantee policy decisions from elected officials, but rather secure a seat at the table when decisions are being made. In politics, if you are not at the table you are on the menu and a well-run PAC is your insurance policy to remain in business. With a properly run PAC you can help influence policy through electing leaders who are sympathetic to your mission, guide decision making, and impact ballot initiatives.
The first step to effectively influencing change is hiring a firm with a track record and experience managing all sorts of PACs, and PEAR Strategies has just that. With experience guiding local, state, and federal PACs for candidates, organizations and concerned citizens at a high success rate we can help you form a strategic plan for success that will take your advocacy to a new level. Running a successful PAC is more than just raising money and writing checks. A successful PAC is accepting a new culture for your organization and understanding the most effective ways to build a war chest and utilize the resources in an effective manner to become a power player in the political arena. Creating and utilizing effective Independent Expenditures is an art; whether it’s targeted mail, video, or radio PEAR has the resources and experience to impact any audience.
Pear Strategies understands the holistic approach that is essential to meaningful economic development. With experience working with Economic Development Agencies, Workforce Investment Boards, Business Improvement Districts and an array of other economic development organizations, in a variety of capacities, we have a unique understanding of the comprehensive process required to complete a project or strategic plan.
PEAR Strategies can manage your project at any level by integrating advocacy, outreach, and planning. By building coalitions early and gaining the support of key stakeholders we can help navigate the regulatory and public opinion challenges. The investment of time and capitol on major economic development projects is substantial and it starts with building consensus. Don’t spend your resources on costly legal and permitting battles. Through research and ingenuity these investments can be minimalized and the process can be more streamline. Our proactive approach is the right way to ensure that your project comes to fruition.
THE OLD FASHIONED VIEW OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS
Traditionally, employers have tended to regard their relationships with home communities as being extensions of their employee relations. The idea was that employees who were treated decently would go into the home communities singing the praises of their employer. In this traditional viewpoint, employers felt that their dollar payroll, their local tax payments and their occasional loan of a facility for a meeting discharged their community obligations, (Centre, Jackson, Smith and Stansberry, 2008).
They explained that their attitude seemed to say, “Look what we are giving: jobs, taxes, meeting facilities and charitable donations.” Employers who held this view tended to assume that with little more than a snap of their fingers they would be provided the practical necessities for efficient operations; streets, sewers, water lines, power and telephone, police and fire services, recreational areas, health care centers, schools, shopping centers, residential areas, cultural and religious facilities, and all the rest. The viewpoint tended to say, “These are what we are entitled to in return for what we give. The community owes use these.”
However, this attitude has changed. Employers now know that they must have more than a general concern for the efficiency and adequacy of community services for themselves and for their employees. They have learned that they must become involved in specific community decisions and actions concerning fiscal policies; honesty in public offices; attracting new businesses and holding older ones; planning for the future; and generating the enthusiasm of volunteers in the charitable, culture, fellowship, educational, recreational, business and patriotic endeavours. In general, they must apply the collective talents of the organization to the community in which it operates. The combination of these concerns involves having representatives in the policy-making structure of the community, sometimes directly and openly, sometimes behind the scenes.
Centre, Jackson, Smith and Stansberry (2008) say that: “Community relations, as a public relations function, is an institution’s planned, active and continuing participation within a community to maintain and enhance its environment to the benefit of both the institution and the community”.
RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE
Since the 1960s, various governmental strategies were implemented into the development of the rural areas in Nigeria. Still, despite colossal amount of money invested and numerous professional agencies created – it has not provided much effect on the rural development. Each and every planning period of rural life in Nigeria remained unchanged since 1960.
The First National Development Plan 1962-1968 prioritized Agriculture as the main branch for the country`s development, but this plan provided only 42% of the capital budget to Agriculture. The Second National Development Plan 1970-1974 prioritized reduction of differences between rural and urban development, but the plan was only partially executed. The Third National Development Plan 1975-1980 implemented the “Integrated rural development” in the framework of the Agricultural Development Programmes sponsored by the World Bank.
Since the early 1970s, rural development has involved a strategy of improving rural and agricultural sectors of the economy.
FOUR ELEMENTS OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY RELATIONS
First, put media relations in its place. Concentrate much less on media – and instead go direct. Go around the media and directly to the stakeholders who matter most. (Don’t ignore editors and reporters, but treat them as a separate strategic audience.) Clients and bosses expect to see their mission vision and values exposed and introduced to the public through earned and controlled media, but by itself media relations is a waste of time if you are after ideal community relations. By going directly to stakeholders who matter most, you’ll identify issues and concerns important to them and also support the second element: identifying and developing the key audiences most interested and supportive of your goals.
Third, involve members of the community at every level. People want to be involved. Don’t think one-way communications does the trick. Find people among your supportive audiences who can act as ambassadors with new audiences in the ‘outer’ circles. Give your ambassadors the tools and responsibility to build new (and strengthen existing) local relationships – and take the time to hear what they are learning in the community! It can be a long slog, but investing time and attention here will result in stronger and sustained community relations.
Opinion leaders represent the fourth element of effective community relations. No matter how strongly you feel about the merits of your issue, the public will seldom if ever act on its own. Members of the public are moved, inspired and motivated by people they see as open-minded and trustworthy. Finding opinion leaders takes time, but by ‘working your network’ you’ll begin developing a short list of names that seem to surface again and again – these are the people who “get around’, who are active in their community and relied upon for advice and direction. Concentrate on individuals who are interested in your issue. Don’t ignore the political leaders, but don’t rely on them either – set political opinion leaders aside as a separate strategic audience.
Rural development is a process that is not merely continuous but takes place principally through definite structures and strategies used by the local agencies to execute developmental projects such that the various institutions in the community have hands in any given community project even if one is formally charged with the initiation and co-ordination of development projects as it does not exclude exchange of information and resources, bargaining between and among interest groups outside and within the community.
All elements of community relations towards a rural development depend on research, listening and two-way communications. Effective management (and consistent evaluation) will result in a strong program benefiting your organization as well better serve the community in which you operate.
- Anyichi, D (1995) “Models of Rural Development in Nigeria; with special focus on ADPS” in Eboh, E.C., Okoye C.U, and Anyichi D. (Ed) Rural Development in Nigeria. Concepts, Processes and prospects. Enugu: Auto century publishing Co
- Bail, G.A (1974) “Nature of Rural Development proceeding” Priorities in Rural Development. University of Guelph Canada.
- Baker, J. (1975) Peoples Participation in Development Administration in India Uppal Publishing house New Delhi
- Dube, D.C. (1986) India Dwelling Villages: Human Factors in Community Development. Roultedge and Kegan Paul, London.
- Ekong, E.E. (1977) “The Administration of Community Development in Nigeria” A
- Critical Appraisal and suggested alternative. The Quarterly Journal of Administration. Vol. XI No.3 Pp.154-155.
- Fakoya, G.O. Apantaku, S.O. and Onyesola, O.B. (2001) “Contributions of Local Associations in Community
- Ijere, M.O. (1987) Rural Development in Imo-State: The Problem of Implementation at the Grassroots. A paper presented at the N.T.A. Workshop in Aba.
- Mordi, A.A. (1988) “Theoretical Approaches to Community Development. An over view” A Seminar paper published by centre for Development Studies. University of Jos.
- Osuem, C.E. (1989) “Adult Education and Community Development” in Samuel Chukwuka Enyibe, Curriculum Fundamentals of Adult Education. Essays in Comparative Education. Onitsha: Innouson Pub. Ltd.
- Ugboh, O. (2004) “Role of Local Leaders in Rural and Community Development in Delta State”. Unpublished: Ph.D Thesis, Dept of Ag.ext, Futo.
- Soderberg, Norman R. Public Relations for the Entrepreneur and the Growing Business. Probus, 1986.